Cancún WTO Ministerial September 2003

WTO Action Meeting Report

Dear Friends and Allies in the Struggle for Global Justice,

I recently attended the first big planning meeting to organize our opposition to the WTO Ministerial in Cancun, Mexico that will take place September 10 - 15, 2003.

Below is a report that will give you an overview of the meeting and the essence of what was discussed. The Mexican Host Committee is compiling more detailed minutes but that may take some time, as it was a very full meeting with lots of ideas and processes.

So here goes.hope it helps, Lisa

Report from the WTO Planning Meeting, Mexico City, November 15 & 16, 2002

Attendance: There were about 240 people who attended representing 89 Mexican organizations, 53 international organizations and people from 16 different countries: Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rico, Brazil, India, Thailand, Philippines, Holland, Great Britain, Germany, France, Belgium and the US.

The Agenda included two main processes- the first was presentations and the second was working tables with report backs. There was some attempt at synthesis, but much more still needs to be done.

The meeting concluded with an understanding that the notes/proposals would be typed up by the Host Committee and distributed for groups to bring back. It was also understood that there were numerous meetings/gatherings over the next year where the process of building relations, trust and consensus would continue to evolve. Some of these meetings include the Asian Social Forum, the World Social Forum, World Fisher folk Meeting, Campesino Social Forum etc.


(FYI: OWINFSN is a network of policy NGO's that has been around for about a year. Public Citizen is one of the leading groups and there is a statement that unites them which is modeled after the Shrink it or Sink It Campaign. It is a network of campaigning groups working together on strategy etc.)


I. Sector: Indigenous, campesino, labor, environmental, women, youth, fisher folk, ngo/civil, to explore expectations, process, actions, organization and coordination:

This table generated some key expectations for the mobilization listed below as well as ideas for actions

II. Themes: Agriculture, Investments, Services, TRIPS to explore strategies, actions and mechanisms for coordination

This table session generated ideas and strategies, most focusing on the need to do public education that is specific to each theme, but also possibly some coordinated international campaigns - Who Decides or some International Human and Economic Rights Declaration. The idea of shifting our language here to make things more accessible. I.e. talk about public services not GATS

III. Work to be Done: Education, Actions, Events, Facilitation

These groups came up with slogans and ideas for each work area. Actions are addressed more in detail later in this report. On Facilitation - how we move forward, a list serve will be setup, want to use consensus as a base, an open, inclusive process that build trust is seen as critical. The Mexicans will obviously anchor this organizing; conference calls will be a tool as well as the International Gatherings for moving the work forward.

EXPECTATIONS: These were generated out of the first working table by Sectors. The following are the key common expectations/themes:

  1. Derail the WTO - this could take many forms
  2. Link WTO, ALCA-FTAA, NAFTA, Plan Pueblo Panama,
  3. Massive Information/Education Campaign Needed - to Gain Public Support
  4. International Need to Help Raise Money for the Mexican Mobilization

Other expectations mentioned included: nonviolent action, connecting the issues of war, need to look at women's issues, boycott/blockade meeting, a moratorium on anything related to agriculture.

KEY ISSUES FOR MEXICO, (Victor Menotti from IFG did a good document outlining the key issues for Mexico. Below is a summary with a few comments added in by participants etc.)

ANALYSIS - comments by Walden Bello

Cancun will be an effort to launch a new round of trade liberalization with a scope similar to the Uruguay Rounds. They want to expand jurisdiction of trade into new dimensions of life. It's a juggernaut moving on many fronts - agriculture, vital services, water, and electricity. They want to launch new rounds on investment, competition policy, government procuement, trade facilitation - these are areas that have always been said must be the sovereign of local governments to restrict foreign interference.

Why Success in Seattle:

  1. EU and US divided on key issues, especially agriculture
  2. Developing countries revolted, because were not being consulted
  3. Massive mobilization of people

They've learned:

  1. Doha - no civil society possible
  2. Manipulate process through Mini-ministerial
  3. EU and US came together
  4. US manipulated process of "green room" a select gathering of countries to draft stuff

We must learn: Weak link in WTO is consensus - all countries must agree for a rule to be adopted. Also it was said that the WTO and trade liberalization was like a bike - it must keep moving forward or it collapses

STRATEGY: different levels and timing:

  1. Support developing countries governments to resist WTO
  2. Divide EU and US on key issues - break consensus
  3. National campaigns by civil society to pressure governments not to cave in
  4. Mass mobilization and street protests

CANCUN (provided by Cancun Welcoming Committee)

For "tourist" info you can check (some of the below came from here)

A little more than 20 years ago Cancun was just a Mayan name, a deserted, sun-drenched island off the northeast tip of the Yucatan peninsula. NOW - it is a "magnificent" resort city that offers visitors over 25,000 rooms in four and five star hotels. Some hotels are internationally recognized but there are also small family-style hotels. The population is about 450,000 and English is widely spoken.

Cancun Island is approximately 16 miles long with the highest point above sea level being 200 feet. It is about 550 miles south of Miami and is part of a coastline that offers numerous coral islands and is the second largest barrier reef in the world.

The main hotel zone lies along 14 miles of beachfront known as Cancun Island. It is within 30 minutes of the Cancun International Airport. Most if not all of the hotel workers are unionized as are the taxis, transport, etc.

September is the low tourist time as it is hurricane season. Since most of the economy is based on tourism, it is likely that many of the residents will welcome the Ministerial since it means work. Because Cancun is so new, you don't have a lot of people there that have a sense of historical identity etc. They are there for the jobs. There are social movements there however and struggles. I think they said there were over 400 social organizations. The taxi drivers and educators were organizing. People are fighting privatization including water and garbage services.

It is easy to get a map of Cancun online. But to get a mental picture image a long skinny stretch of land almost in the shape of an upside down L. On one side is the sea. On the other is a huge lagoon, the Nichupte Lagoon. The very tip where both sides meet is where the ministerial will be held in the Convention Center. Two bridges connect this strip to the main land where the "downtown" is. There are basically two main roads to get to the island.

A man named Jose Acevedo was hired to coordinate the whole event. He was the coordinator for the APEC meeting. At that meeting he militarized an 2- kilometer area, had war ships in the harbor, badges for certain areas only and iris scans to match badge.

Jose Acevedo:
Montecito 38, WTC piso 32, Col. Napoles, Mexico, DF 03810
54 88 28 60 ext. 2100, 54 88 28 50 (fax I think)

They already have most of the hotels reserved near the point. They need 6000 rooms and there are 25,000 available. So their plan is to have various checkpoints along the way and only people with credentials or a delegate pass will be allowed to pass. Workers will need credentials; NGO's will need accreditation etc. We may want to consider having thousands of people apply. Metal detectors will also be used. It is still unclear whether there will be a fence or just barricades. Jose wants a dialogue with civil society and does not want any ripples so we must be alert to possible efforts to thwart our message and actions.


In addition to the Social Movement gatherings, there were some other dates for building actions mentioned like International Women's Day, March 31 when all countries are suppose to submit their proposals on Services. There was some talk of April actions 10-17 for a Peasant Struggle and August 8, the Zapatistas Birthday? ---my notes are not clear.

For the week of September some of the components discussed included having a Social Forum, the Welcoming Committee is interested in organizing a Fiesta, a mass march and direct action etc. There was a proposal to put out a call for an International Day of Action for countries around the world and look for ways to link up. i.e. satellite feeds. Ideas of caravans were discussed with border blockades if they are stopped. There is also a lot of momentum on the idea of blocking commerce across the hemisphere be it at highways, ports, airports etc coming from the peasant organizations. They will be having a Summit in early march and may issues such a call.

It was pointed out that Sept 15 was Independence Day for Mexico, so issue of Sovereignty will have a natural resonance. It is also proposed that the call to action be rooted in nonviolent action. It was proposed that a working group be set up to come up with strategies to deal with police violence as well as to dialogue with groups who were not part of this discussion.

There were many other ideas brought up in the Actions working group as well as the other tables. Many of the youth groups who had been part of the actions against the World Economic Forum in Cancun in 2000 were present, energized and who have some experience doing actions in Cancun.

The challenge before all of us now is how to best support the Mexican Host Group, the Cancun Welcoming Committee and the Youth Groups and put in motion an organizing process in each of our countries to get as many people to Cancun as possible while supporting local actions for the vast majority who will not be able to attend.

There is a desire to have good coordination among all the groups and to find a way to be in solidarity and support of one another while each sector focuses on what they do best. I.e..NGO's - inside strategies, social forums etc, campesinos and youth etc on direct action and so on.

For now, let start spreading the word, creating momentum, building our mobilization and organizing to support our brothers and sisters in Mexico. In time, processes, structures, frameworks, education campaigns, actions etc will evolve and become clearer.

That's all for now,
In solidarity, Lisa Fithian

A group of us met in San Francisco in December to start brainstorming ideas at least for the US and how we might proceed. Will forward those notes soon.

WTO issues for Mexico

Towards a "Plan Cancun". Key WTO Issues for Mexico

Victor Menotti, International Forum on Globalization

WTO's Cancun Ministerial could advance a number of agenda items launched by the Doha Round of trade negotiations. To inspire a successful people's mobilization around Cancun, there is a need to link the WTO agenda to popular movements who are within "striking distance" of Cancun. The purpose of this brief is to draw links between WTO campaigners and Mexican organizers who can collaborate on strategic issues that both elevate local struggles and impact WTO decisions. Call it some initial steps toward an eventual "Plan Cancun." Below is an initial attempt to identify current popular movements in the region and key WTO agenda items which may impact them.

Mexico's farming communities need no introduction to the problems of free trade thanks to the experience of NAFTA. The liberalization of corn and grain markets was supposed to be phased in gradually over fifteen years, but instead its implementation was accelerated within eighteen months. Mexico's national system of import tariffs and quotas were repealed while state assistance for farming equipment, seeds, and marketing were reduced. Constitutional rights for communal land were changed to accommodate foreign investors. Mexico's biggest rural employment program was being dismantled, displacing countless family farmers. But what is in WTO that Mexico's small farmers should care about?

WTO's prohibition of Quantitative Restrictions (QRs) allows artificially cheap commodities to enter domestic markets and destroy farmers livelihoods and incomes. Farmers across the world are demanding a restoration of QRs. Vandana Shiva has called it "the real issue" for Cancun, noting that prioritizing the re-introduction of QRs would reduce WTO's powers, as opposed to focusing on market access and subsidies, which would expand WTO powers. WTO's current review of anti-dumping rules that determine what measures governments can take to counter unfair imports should heed the demands of Mexican farmers who are mobilizing for Cancun.

Lead by indigenous communities, southeast Mexico and Central America have a growing grassroots movement to fight President Fox's proposed "Plan Puebla Panama." PPP is cast as a regional development initiative that would create a protected biological corridor from Puebla, Mexico to Panama, offering the region's legendary genetic diversity to bioprospectors who would in turn patent and market "new" foods and medicines. Hydroelectric dams (to power new maquiladoras), an intermodal-transport system (to compete with the Panama Canal for international trade traffic), as well as expanded timber, mineral and petroleum extraction, would complement major inward investments toward exploiting genetic resources.

WTO is the global mechanism that makes the privatization of biodiversity not only highly profitable, but also legally possible. Without WTO's Agreement on Trade Related Intellectual Property (or TRIPs), the corporations that "privatize life" by patenting genetic resources would have no legal tool to enforce global monopoly rights over the use of biological diversity.

In Doha, governments mandated WTO to review TRIPs' relationship to the United Nations' Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) because TRIPs conflicts with the biodiversity and traditional knowledge rights that indigenous peoples fought to establish in CBD. A coalition of "mega-biodiversity" nations, including Mexico, want TRIPs to defer to CBD. TRIP's legitimacy is also under attack by powerful developing nations like Brazil and South Africa because it denies access to the essential medicines needed to treat AIDS and other diseases. Cancun will be the site of an open fight over whose rights will prevail: global corporations who want to own biodiversity or indigenous communities who say, "No patents on life!" People resisting PPP and patents on life should be heard. By elevating the voices of communities that PPP will directly impact, and targeting the WTO rules that make PPP possible, Cancun can be used to "kill two birds with one stone."

The discovery of genetically modified corn in the southern states of Oaxaca and Puebla, the origins of the maize genome, has alarmed many Mexicans and heightened their sense of outrage about unregulated grain imports from the US. Many consider it a violation of Mexico's cultural identity. But efforts to isolate, separate, and regulate GMO corn in Mexico must conform to WTO's strict but unclear rules under the Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) Agreement. Mexican voices calling for the control of GMOs must be heard in the WTO debate, targeting the SPS agreement's contradictions with the UN's Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which declares that nations have the right to regulate GMOs. Advocates of controlling GMO corn could become a key force in another WTO mandate from Doha: clarifying the relationship between WTO rules (which prohibit restrictions on trade) and the trade measures that enforce the UN's Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs). UN protections for biodivesity, food security, and indigenous culture must supercede the rights of transgenic seed corporations under WTO.

Southern Mexico is a microcosm of the struggle between free trade forestry and the emerging alternative: ecologically sustainable, community-based forestry. What WTO decides in Cancun could determine the future of forests in Mexico and worldwide.

Eco-labeling: Boasting one of the world's the highest concentrations of certified-sustainable producers, forest communities in southern Mexico have invested much time, money, and energy to earn the world-renowned eco-label of the Forest Stewardship Council, which is based in the state of Oaxaca. But WTO is now examining how eco-labels impact trade, with a decision to be taken in Cancun as to whether or not to develop market access rules that would restrict or even prohibit the use of eco-labels. If WTO usurps authority over eco-labels, it would determine the fate of many communities who have made hard sacrifices to earn certification as sustainable forest producers.

Investment: Oaxaca is also where 26 campesinos were recently assassinated while returning from a logging operation. While the motives behind it are still unclear, what is clear is that new foreign investment rules have increased industrial logging in Mexico's biologically rich forests and gross human rights violation in Mexico's forest communities. As guinea pig for US-designed investment rules under NAFTA (which are now being proposed for all nations via WTO), Mexico saw fifteen US logging firms arrive within eighteen months. . People opposing the problem are being tortured and killed. Foreign investors often pay higher prices for logs (made possible by NAFTA investment rules), creating volatile tensions between the few people who gain from unregulated logging and nearby campesinos and indigenous peoples' whose adjacent forests, water, farms, and communities are being destroyed. Such was the case of campesino-ecologist Rodolfo Montiel Flores, who was imprisoned and tortured for leading peaceful community resistance against US logging giant Boise Cascade's operations in Guerrero.

Forest communities are desperate for inward investment, but without enforceable rules to guide it, intensified resource extraction only destroys the environment and deepens poverty. Cancun is an opportunity to raise the voices of Mexico's forest communities who are suffering the impacts of liberalized foreign investment in free logging, both to elevate their struggles and warn the world not to let WTO adopt the same rules.

The region around Cancun has become a postcard for "industrial tourism." Over 80% of the foreign investment in Canucn's tourism industry comes from either Europe or the US, either of which is only a few hours away by plane. Increasing numbers of people from Cancun and the Yucatan Peninsula are concerned that the "gains" form tourism are being extracted by foreign tourism corporations and not being retained to raise standards of living in the community. A new Green Party mayor was recently elected in Cancun in part on a platform of regulating an out-of-control tourism industry.

WTO's negotiations to liberalize the trade in "Tourism Services" under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) could curtail Cancun's municipal government's efforts to regulate tourism. The US proposal lists a number of "obstacles" to free trade in tourism services, targeting the very policies many governments use to ensure that local communities retain some benefit from tourism. Beyond the municipal government's policy agenda, the loss of control may also impact city's hotel and restaurant employees who embody the tourism industry. Tourism issues have the potential to unify local resistance to industrial tourism in strategic cities across the globe, as well as many rural areas that tourism threatens.

NAFTA failed to open up Mexico's state-owned oil company (PEMEX), but "energy services" negotiations under GATS is a stragtegic initiative by the Bush/Cheney White House to reduce dependence on oil from the Mideast by increasing access to and control over energy supplies viathe break-up of state-owned oil and gas enterprises. Privatization of Mexico's state-owned oil company (PEMEX) and electricity delivery services are highly controversial issues, and a global trade summit advancing the privatization of "energy services" could attract much attention. Connecting GATS to Mexico's energy debate and its key constituencies can raise the profile of the WTO Ministerial as well as elevate domestic voices on the global stage. Southern Mexico's rich petroleum resources are also at stake, as energy services liberalization would allow US companies to access more exploration and drilling opportunities in the region. There is currently no organized effort to monitor or influence WTO negotiations on Energy Services. A recent report by Daniel Yergin (author of the authoritative history of the oil industry, The Prize) Cambridge Energy Research Associates on "The WTO Doha Trade Agenda: A Primer for the Energy Industry" should be taken note of as an identification of opportunities by industry strategists.

As is nearly all of Latin America, Mexican civil society's organizing energy has catalyzed around stopping the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). But, as the United States Tradfe Repreentative Robert Zolleick explained at the recent FTAA Ministerial in Quito, the finalization of FTAA depends on what happens in agriculture in WTO. Without dissipating the organziing energy, Mexican groups and WTO campaigners need to build on the popular momentum created by fighting FTAA, keeping in mind its strategic relationship to WTO.

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These are only a few of many more connections that must be established and strengthened between WTO campaigners and Mexican organizaers and social movements to really impact the Cancun Minsiterial.

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